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NY Casino Lobbying Nears $11 Million

Published: July 7, 2014 11:55 am ET

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Companies involved in bidding for casino licenses in New York State spent nearly $11 million on lobbying and campaign donations in 2012 and 2013, and are donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign committees through holding companies, according to a new report from the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Companies affiliated with KT Lim, the CEO of Malaysian casino company Genting, spent $2.47 million on lobbying between 2012 and 2013. Lim is involved in bids for three separate casinos -- two in Orange County and a third in Sullivan County.

He is a part-owner of Empire Resorts, one of the companies bidding in Orange County to build a destination resort that would be called Montreign Resort Casino.

Empire Resorts spent $665,977 on lobbying expenditures during the two-year period.

Caesars, the Las-Vegas based casino giant proposing an $880 million casino in Woodbury, spent $319,123 on lobbying. Caesars is partnering with developer David Flaum on its bid, and Flaum, who is also the developer on a casino proposal in Rensselaer with Hard Rock and the Seneca Indian Tribe, spent $211,925 over the two-year time period.

But the lobbying expenses represent only part of the casino companies' spending.

Individuals and companies involved in the casino bids contributed $4.32 million to state and local political committees in 2012 and 2013, records show, with individual companies contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars each over the two-year period.

The largest contributing entity was Genting, which gave a total of $984,244 during that time.

The second-largest contributor was Tioga Downs owner Jeff Gural's company, which gave $705,400.

The New York Gaming Association isn't affiliated with any single bid, but it has been instrumental in pushing for casino expansion statewide; it has given $553,114 over the previous two years.

Nevele, the company bidding to build a resort in Ellenville in Ulster County, has donated $427,404.

The single largest recipient of casino companies' donations was the New York Jobs Now Committee, a casino-backed PAC which lobbied in support of the passage of the statewide ballot referendum that legalized casino gambling last fall. The committee received $1.9 million over the two-year period.

The second biggest beneficiary was the Nevele Proposition 1 Committee, a PAC founded by Nevele CEO Michael Treanor, which ran advertisements and conducted polling in support of the referendum. The committee took in $327,404.

At least a half-dozen companies affiliated with casino bids are either lobbying or making campaign donations through vaguely named holding companies that are difficult to link to the publicly identified bidders.

Developer David Flaum, Traditions Resort and Casino, the Galesi Group, developer Louis Cappelli, and Wilmorite all have either set up lobbying contracts or given political donations through dozens of obscure LLCs.

Companies bidding for the casinos have retained 31 different lobbying firms since 2012, and recent filings with the state's ethics commission show that many of the bidders have retained lobbyists for the first time in New York State.

EPR Properties, the developer of Adelaar, the proposed site for Empire Resorts' Montreign Casino, inked a $545 per hour contract with GCA Capital Group to lobby on its behalf.

Howe Caverns signed a $12,000 per month deal with Park Strategies, Al D'Amato's lobbying firm, for April to July 2014.

Wilmorite and Rush Street Gaming both signed $15,000 per month contracts with lobbyists -- Brown & Weinraub and Bolton St. Johns, respectively -- for their casino projects.

But that figure likely obscures the total amount companies have spent on lobbying, in part because of a loophole in the state's lobbying laws that does not require companies to report lobbying in towns or municipalities with a population of less than 50,000 people.

All but one of the 17 locations where companies are planning to site their casinos are in municipalities that don't meet the population requirements for disclosure.


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